The National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for handling some of the most sensitive information of veterans, government employees, and national records. Yet, even this organization fell victim to a massive loss of data in 2008, which may have actually been avoided with more effective practices in software encryption and hardware management. Below you will get a look at how this information leak took place and the impact that it had on the security of this agency.
Negligence in data management
NARA’s data breach took place when a malfunctioning hard drive was returned to the contractor from which it was sold. The data stored on the drive—health records and social security numbers of millions of veterans dating back to 1972—was not wiped before the drive was returned and ultimately passed along for recycling after it was unable to be fixed. The incident was the single largest breach of personally identifiable information on part of a government agency.
Lack of encryption software
Not only was there a misstep taken in not wiping the hard drive, but the data that it contained was not encrypted. Similar to the Heartland breach that took place around the same time, information could have been protected by scrambling sensitive data with encryption software.
70 million veterans affected
The number of individuals with personally identifiable information compromised in the NARA breach was staggering—about 70 million. Controversy of the information leak was compounded by internal criticism of the security practices of NARA and the attempts of the agency to subvert the significance of this mismanagement of sensitive information.
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This article is part of our collection of WORLD FAMOUS SECURITY BREACHES!